When Is College Decision Day?

When Is College Decision Day?
portrait of Anne Dennon
By Anne Dennon

Published on April 26, 2021

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National College Decision Day is May 1 — the day high school seniors commit to the college where they'll spend the next four years or more. This date carries the most significance for students who apply to selective institutions. Many private, nonprofit colleges require incoming first-year students to submit a nonrefundable deposit on this date.

The May 1 deadline doesn't affect those applying to community colleges and less competitive four-year institutions, many of which have rolling admission, meaning they accept students throughout the year.

Last spring, hundreds of colleges pushed Decision Day back a month or more. This year, most universities have resumed the traditional May 1 deadline.

Last spring, with campuses closed and students punted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of colleges pushed Decision Day back a month or more. This year, however, most U.S. universities have resumed the traditional May 1 deadline. (The Ivy League plans to give admitted students until May 3, 2021, an extra 48 hours to decide.)

Students this spring may be in a better position to make final decisions about college. Many campuses are once again hosting visitors and promising a more normal fall term. Still, students continue to experience losses in family income amid lockdown measures, and struggle to maintain grades and morale through remote learning.

As COVID-19 continues to complicate college plans, students who need more time to make their final decision on where to attend may consider requesting an extension.

Extensions Give Students More Time to Decide

Prospective students can ask for additional time to decide whether to enroll at a particular college — it's just a matter of filing an extension request.

Schools are likely to continue to be flexible with College Decision Day 2021.

Last year, some schools that did not officially push back Decision Day were instead generous with granting extension requests. Colleges that reported receiving a handful of requests in previous years were inundated with hundreds amid the pandemic. Schools are likely to continue to be flexible with this year's deadline.

Postponing College Decision Day gives students more time to weigh their options. From schools' perspectives, a later decision deadline gives them more time to capture potential enrollees. Until 2019, the code of ethics for college admissions prohibited colleges from recruiting students who had committed to another school after May 1.

With looser codes and softer deadlines, colleges vying to fill classes may offer tuition discounts or other perks. In an effort to raise last fall's sagging enrollment numbers, some colleges cut tuition by 10% or more. Others froze tuition levels, breaking away from earlier plans to increase rates.

Students Should Only Commit to One College

College Decision Day is the culmination of the college application process. Ethics come into play in the early stages of applying to colleges when you need to represent yourself and your accomplishments accurately, and again when deciding which school to attend.

Students torn over which college to attend may be tempted to “double deposit” — to commit to two schools.

According to the College Board, it's against application ethics to tell more than one college that it's your first choice. Students torn over which college to attend may be tempted to "double deposit" — to commit to two schools in order to delay the decision until fall.

Double depositing may be unavoidable if you've been waitlisted at your top-choice college, or if you're hoping to negotiate financial aid offers. Beyond these reasons, double deposits are considered unethical.

Double depositing leads to more than just a forfeited deposit — it fills a spot that could have gone to someone else. Next year's applicants may face higher deposit amounts and a stronger likelihood of being waitlisted as colleges work to make up for accounting gaps. Finally, some universities reserve the right to rescind an offer of admission if they discover a student put down a second deposit at another school.

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